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Let’s begin with a bit of fantasising. You, reader, have been commissioned to write the biography of Jack Wilshere.

How would you begin? Would you follow chronology — the young lad born in Hitchin, an obvious football prodigy, and chart his career through time from there? Would you begin at the moment he ran onto the field to become the youngest player in Arsenal history? Might it be that very special night, undoubtedly the greatest night in Emirates history so far, when Arsenal came from behind to beat Barcelona in the Champions League? That was a Barcelona side containing Messi, Villa, Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets and a whole host of superstars. Yet that glorious evening no star shone more brightly than Jack Wilshere. You have other options. Would you begin when he was first called up for England or when he gave a sublime two-goal performance against Slovenia to evoke comparisons with Gazza? Perhaps that wonderful team goal slotted home against Norwich would be your starting point?

Maybe on the other hand you are of a more gloomy persuasion. You’d start when Jack broke his fibula, the regular recurrences of ankle injuries, the moment when Arsene Wenger told him that he would not be getting a new contract at Arsenal or possibly you’d even begin now as Jack retires from the game to open a new chapter as a coach at his beloved Arsenal.

All of  those moments are viable options for a starting point and in that selection — and there could be many more moments I could have chosen — it is easy to see that the overriding theme of any appraisal of Jack Wilshere as at July 2022 is “what might have been”. Of course that’s not entirely fair. Jack has 34 England caps, 2 FA Cup winners medals, he made 125 appearances for Arsenal and also represented, at different times, West Ham, Bournemouth and Bolton before retiring in the employ of Dutch club AGF. At his bewitching best he was one of the most exciting and skillful players we have seen in English football in the last twenty-five years. Comparisons with Gazza are not exaggerated or fanciful, as he was a stellar talent and though his career was peppered with indiscretions most were relatively minor and not the sort of extraordinary behavioural own goals that littered Gazza’s career.

There is also, especially for a lot of Arsenal fans, an elephant in the room. Might it be that had he been handled differently, been taken better care of and protected from himself and the destructive tackling of Premier League opponents might he still be playing for Arsenal today, our midfield colossus and the elder statesman still in his prime? When I asked for views on this from a number of Arsenal fans it is very clear that many believe that several of his injuries were avoidable and that had he not been driven into the ‘infamous red zone’ his career may well have had a totally different trajectory.

To examine this aspect of Jack’s story I’ve called on Trev’s deep physiological and orthopaedic knowledge, and I will share his thinking shortly.

But I want to begin this look at Jack’s career with a personal memory. I don’t know if it’s just me or not, but when I see a great player or a great team performance it is framed in my mind with the date and circumstances of the match. Ian Wright’s record-breaking goal, the debut of Dennis Bergkamp, the first appearance of Patrick Vieira and indeed the first appearance of Liam Brady are filed away in what my wife believes is a storehouse of useless information, most of it relating to Arsenal.

My first chance to assess Jack in the flesh, so to speak, was a League Cup game in November 2008 against Wigan Athletic. I went to the game with two old chums, one a very old friend who had seen a huge amount of football much of which was at Arsenal, but whose heart belonged to Palace  and another, who had stood on the terraces at Highbury with me for several seasons and had experienced with me the extraordinary 1979 FA Cup Final. Arsenal had beaten Sheffield United 6-0 in the previous round but I had been at a board dinner in Exeter and so missed the entry into Arsenal folklore of Jack Wilshere. For some bizarre reason I remember the following day’s Evening Standard suggesting that Jack was a throwback to a simpler and more old-fashioned football era and that his name was reminiscent of a pilot character in Biggles!

It was with keen anticipation I watched Jack’s appearance against Wigan in a fledgling team that featured Aaron Ramsey in midfield, Carlos Vela wide and most exciting of all a young Danish striker, Niklas Bendtner, in the main striking role. It was predicted that he had the ability to become the greatest striker who ever lived. Sadly, he was the only one making this prediction.

My Palace mate started purring within seconds of the start as Jack’s silky touch became apparent and he glided across the turf evading challenges at will. Just before halftime he produced an extraordinary long pass to Jay Simpson which left him in the clear to open the scoring. Even at that early stage all of the Wilshere attributes were on show. Most exciting for me was that burst of acceleration which took him past opponents just as they expected to nick the ball away from him. His first touch often took him immediately into situations where he threatened danger. What happens with young players is that we fail to appreciate them for themselves but immediately find a comparison so that we can convey to others what sort of player they are or who they remind us of. For me the obvious comparison was Liam Brady.

If you know how highly I rated Liam as a player, you will appreciate what a compliment that was. Both were predominantly left-footed but good enough and quick enough that one-footedness was a blessing not a liability. And when they needed to use their right foot they were able to do do to sublime effect. Remember Brady’s cross to Stapleton for our second goal in the 1979 Cup Final? Wilshere had a similar moment in 2014 against Manchester City where he glided onto a ball in the inside right channel. Wrong side we all thought but he struck the ball past Joe Hart with real class into the top corner. Also like Liam there was the feistiness that had to be there when you are a small ball-playing midfielder operating in the jungle of the Premier League. There were flashes of temper and indiscretions — Brady sent off against Hadjuk Split at Highbury after intense goading from the Yugoslavs, Jack saw red against Birmingham at the Grove for a piece of petulance. But that is a part of a ball-player’s make-up that has to be there if you hope to compete and to win respect from opponents.

Jack was immediately fêted as a superstar. I wasn’t the only Gooner who saw in him the second coming of Brady. This was a burden for him but it was exciting for the fans — a Hitchin-born superstar that had been an Academy sensation and been playing out of his age groups right from the early stages of his career.

One of the claims about him was his ordinariness, how he’d had a sensible upbringing and strong family roots. He needed these as the tabloids started to hone in on his private life, and as I am sure he will admit he was probably naive to allow himself to be photographed with hookah pipes or in what looked like boozefests in glamorous resorts with his close mates and other players. He was in a fracas which saw him arrested but to the disappointment of the tabloids it emerged that he was acting as a peacemaker rather than an aggressor and he just received a caution. But he was fair game for the tabloids, especially in the light of his fame, growing notoriety and with so many people keen to take the definitive picture showing him behaving inappropriately.

There were two concurrent themes as Jack’s career developed. The media are always looking for that generational player who is good enough to turn the footballing world upside down. Could Jack Wilshere ascend to that throne, when players like Currie and Keegan and Barnes and Gascoigne and Gerrard and Rooney had all failed at the highest level to imprint themselves on world football consciousness? Many of those players were profoundly talented but did any of them, with the possible exception of Keegan, achieve world superstar status? With his burgeoning ability which saw him not only capped for England but also identified as the heartbeat of the side there was a time when Wilshere looked to be that special generational player.

The other issue, inevitably, was his injury challenges. That is why his occasionally erratic behaviour off the field was a particular concern. Could he look after himself better? He clearly had an inbuilt fragility and many felt this might be being exacerbated by an inappropriate lifestyle. Arsène Wenger, who Jack credits as a great mentor, was so keen to ensure that his charges looked after themselves properly that it is hard to believe he did not receive sound advice and guidance. But youth is often wasted on the young, and from time to time the headlines made grim reading — albeit that Jack was a target. Fatherhood came early to him; it was clearly a huge motivation for him, and helped him to moderate his lifestyle. Despite the witch hunt against him his excesses were never that serious. In fact Arsenal fans came to love him even more after successive Cup Final celebrations led to him leading an impromptu and expletive laden rendering of an anti-Tottenham song! Yobbish behaviour it may have seemed but in the increasingly tribal world of North London club football the red half saw him as a hero and the white half as a pariah.

To flesh out those two issues he made his England debut in 2010 (aged 18) and played a major part in qualification for the Euros in 2016. That Slovenia game where he scored two sublime goals after entering the game as a substitute was his high water mark in international football. Injuries decimated his career and began to take an increasing toll.

His injury problems began with a stress fracture of his ankle in 2011 which proved very problematic and he missed the whole season and was out for 17 months. He then got an injury which terminated his 2012/13 season early. This is where Trev’s insights as an experienced physiotherapist are so helpful and I am most grateful to him for these comments some of which appeared in the blog many years ago.

“In the human body, the muscular system does a few things, some of which may not be immediately apparent. For example, the muscles store the ingredients required to generate medium term energy – that is to say, while the sugars needed to fuel a 100m sprint are all in the blood stream, the 1500m runner will derive their energy from the muscle stores, and the marathon runner will eventually burn up fat reserves.

“The muscles also create a pumping system which cleans the body of the waste, such as acid and oxidant, created by generating energy. Most obviously, the muscles generate the forces which move the body around, and slightly less obviously, the forces which prevent it from moving too.

“To explain that last point – whenever an injury occurs in the body, be it bone or joint damage, trauma, bruising, strain or inflammation, the muscles around the injury site go into a protective contraction – ‘if it can’t move, it can’t incur any further damage’ is the theory. This protective contraction reflex, or spasm, also kicks in whenever a joint is stressed to more than 70% of it’s flexibility or strength limits.

“That contraction may resolve itself as the injury state improves – sometimes it does not. There are ways of “kidding” the body’s nervous system into releasing the protective contraction, and it is important that this is ensured as the body returns to health, otherwise continued contraction and compensation for injuries can result in postural changes.

“The body will try to accommodate imbalances as far as possible which, over time, can lead to changes in many parts of the body. Eventually, something has to give but detecting and correcting all the affected parts can be a difficult and lengthy process.

“None of that is peculiar to Arsenal Football Club, but the more injuries a player suffers the more complex the problem becomes. And it is our young players that seem to be more injured than most.

“I believe that is because Arsenal players tend to have been promoted to first team level at a younger age than at most other clubs. Connective tissue – the tendons and ligaments that give stability to joints – does not mature and harden in young males until the age of around 21.  Arsenal’s style has been based on ball retention, committing and unbalancing opponents, thus inviting challenges and moving at high speed. All this results in higher risk of catching, tearing and twisting injuries, sometimes, in Arsenal’s case, to 16-20 year olds.

“Once that connective tissue is damaged as a teenager, it is very hard to get a perfect repair. Any resulting instability, damage or trauma in a joint will result in the soft tissues reflexively contracting to immobilise and protect the joint. Contracting  muscles, operating at a shortened length, are more likely to suffer further tears or strains.

“The Arsene Wenger model of recent years has tended to be to use leaner players for their quickness and agility, and we have had a lot of smaller, shorter players who rely on technique and passing rather than the more mature power runners of his earlier years at Arsenal, when we didn’t seem to suffer these injury pile-ups.

“At the time when Jack was playing, most of us in Dave’s old bar said we needed more height and power in our central midfield. The obvious advantage was to be more able to clear the ball from set pieces, win headers generally, and be able to stand up better to the likes of a Yaya Toure, Matic, Schweinsteiger etc etc.

“Jack’s style of dribbling and ball carrying invited anyway a lot of challenges – not to mention rotational fouling – and coincided with a number of managers like Allardyce, Pulis, Hughes and Ferguson who were only too keen to tell their players to “get in the faces” of Arsenal’s ball players.

“The taller player, though, has another advantage in that box to box role, namely, a longer stride. Even at the elite level of sprinting, Usain Bolt covers 100 metres in 41 strides, while his competitors take an average 44. That means 3 extra stresses and loading of the ankle, knee, hip and spinal joints for every 100 metres run.

“How many more times will Jack Wilshere’s weight, with his shorter strides, hit the joints in his body over the course of a game than, say, Matic’s? And in case you think it’s trivial, bear this in mind:

“At a brisk walking pace, each step will induce a force of around 2.5x body weight through the knees.  While running, the force increases to around 5x body weight, while jumping off your bottom stair at home onto the floor will induce a force of around 10x body weight into the knees.

“Its easy to understand how young, smaller players are going to cause more wear in their joints than their taller counterparts.

“Over the period when Jack and his smaller team mates, like Walcott, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain were playing for us, his taller, heavier counterparts at Chelsea lost ONE QUARTER of the player days through injury that we did.”

These injury problems sadly came to define Jack. His injury struggles at Arsenal became almost continuous. When a player is increasingly absent and continually breaks down you see the harsh reality of football fandom. Supporters retain affection but lose faith and that is what happened to Wilshere. He started to disappear from the consciousness of Arsenal fans and when he wasn’t given a new contract the majority of fans reluctantly accepted the decision. His subsequent time with West Ham and Bournemouth wasn’t successful enough to support the contention that if only he could get fit there was still a special talent ready to be unleashed. Sadly Jack couldn’t get fit enough to prove that and his displays were never eye catching enough to suggest he could ever return to his former level.

A lot of football stories end in sadness or failure but there is real hope that Jack Wilshere’s won’t. Arsenal seek a good infusion of DNA into their reserve and youth teams and Jack has been given a marvellous opportunity as head of the Under-18 team to stay with the club he loves and to improve the next generation of Arsenal players. Great players rarely make great coaches, but they sometimes do. Arsenal fans everywhere will be fervently hoping that this is a story with a happy ending and that Jack’s legacy is strong despite the fact that it hasn’t been passed on in exactly the way we envisaged.

Just as Wilshere evoked memories of Brady with that surge and superb left foot, maybe we will see another great Wilshere-like talent emerge to become the player that sadly injuries did not permit Jack to be.

83 Drinks to “A genius thwarted by circumstance”

  1. 1
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks TTG, that’s a a great piece about a player I loved watching play for The Arsenal.
    And thanks to Trev as well for the education👍
    It will be a great ending if Jack becomes a successful manager so the best of luck to him along the way.

  2. 2
    OsakaMatt says:

    ps I’d have started with the Norwich goal as it was so Arsenal and so was Jack but just my tuppence worth

  3. 3
    scruzgooner says:

    well, matt, he kinda did, with the pic, and all.

    i loved jack. that barca game was a gem, and the norwich goal still doesn’t seem like skill, more luck than that. and yet!

    thanks thundertinyretiree…

  4. 4
    OsakaMatt says:

    Haha, yeah he did. I didn’t even notice the pic!

    Beth Mead getting a hat trick🎉🎉 Well done her.

  5. 5
    Malcolm says:

    Many thanks TTG. I’m delighted that Jack has earned his re-birth and like you saddened by “what might have been”. I had to rely on the goggle box back then and sadly don’t recall getting across from Oz to see him in the flesh.

    Many thanks also to Trev for a most informative insight into how all the important bits work. If only i’d known some of this earlier i might have gone from being just seriously “pony” in my own ventures.

    i follow Dave Faber’s Gonnerholics blog on a daily basis and enjoy the wealth of knowledge and opinion, all of which comes into great use in my banter with a golfing colleague who supports the mob up the road. Lost a bottle of bubbly on last season’s result and him taking great pleasure in no Saint Totterringham’s day for the 5th (or whatever) year in arrow…what an achievement! My bottle was re-labelled with the latest print out of the Tottenham Clock and to be fair, he had a bit of a titter when i used Boris’ empty cabinet situ being passed on to Mr. Levy.


  6. 6
    bt8 says:

    Another tour de force, TTG. LJW’s definitive biographer?

  7. 7
    bt8 says:

    Re: Wayne Rooney being appointed as the new coach of DC United. I hope he has a defensive plan because DC have conceded 3, 3 and 7 goals in their last three games. If he doesn’t have a defensive plan then so much more entertainment for the rest of us.

  8. 8
    Countryman100 says:

    What a fabulous piece. I too was present at many of the games you mention TTG, including that incredible night when he ran midfield against peak Pep Barcelona. I totally agree with the comparison with Brady, both players utterly one footed, but could do more with that one foot than most players with two. Thanks also to Trev for his expert sports science explanations. But LJW was so close to the fans. After that Cup Final win, there he was, clearly heavily hungover, outside the Emirates, bellowing out WHAT DO YOU THINK OF TOTTENHAM? He was our Jacky boy, and I wish him all the very best as the U18 coach, back where he belongs.

  9. 9
    ClockEndRider says:

    Superb piece, TTG.
    The way in which the UK media colluded with the largely talentless, ante-diluvian football management fraternity not to mention the, at best, weak referees to facilitate assaults on fabulous players like Diaby, Fabregas, Ramsey and LJW was an absolute stain on the game.
    It was such a pleasure to know that you were going to watch sublime artistry whenever Jack played. I hope his life experiences have given him a genuine desire to help the next generation of players navigate the shark infested waters of the PL and to ensure they are looked after rather better than he was by those who should have known better.

  10. 10
    bathgooner says:

    Thank you, TTG. A masterful review, sir, of the far too brief playing trajectory of a true superstar. Thanks also to Trev for a superb summary of the physiology and pathology.

    I still remember my first sight on the old Arsenal TV of an exciting, diminutive, hobbit-like figure dancing through opponents for Steve Bould’s Under-18 team. Despite his stature, that boy stood ‘head and shoulders’ above everyone else on the field. He did the same at the top level and raised the games of all around him. What a player he was! Jack deserves all the luck in the world for his coaching career.

    A toast to LJW! 🥃

  11. 11
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Nice piece TTG, thanks for the memories.

    Malcolm @5
    It’s a long way from Oz to get to a home game. Where in the desert land are you now?

  12. 12
    Trev says:

    TTG – interesting, enjoyable and thought provoking. It was a pleasure to contribute to such a superb piece.

    Bath – thank you for the compliment – valued praise indeed from someone with the very highest medical qualifications. My first recollections of Jack are exactly the same as yours. Those and that Barcelona game will always be my favourite memories.

  13. 13
    Malcolm says:

    Hi Noosa
    Just down the road a tad in Adelaide. it sure is a long way but courtesy of 40+ years in aviation, i made it over there quite frequently…and i was there the day Mickey Quinn stuck 3 in as per AAllen’s article in Arseblog today…haven’t been back now since July 2019…but thank the Lord for Optus…bit warmer in Noosa i imagine, than down here! Next time i’m up your way, i’ll let you know…i went to Coolum in 1995…no cause to go to QLD much. Last time was in 2011 to Pt Douglas with my now departed Gooner nut-case brother…even though he’s been gone 9 years, his lads still have his 2 seats at THOF..way up high

  14. 14
    North Bank Ned says:

    A delightful memoir, TTG, that was a joy to read. You brought the memories flooding back. Jack was a generational talent that injury prevented from fully flowering. We got just a few blooms, but how splendid those were.

    You say great players rarely make great coaches but disappointed ones cut off in their prime often do. Brian Clough might be a good comparator in Jack’s case. He should be an inspirational coach for our U-18s.

    Trev: Thank you for, as Bath says, a superb summary of the physiology and pathology. I am tempted never to leave the couch again to protect my knees.

  15. 15
    Cynic says:

    My overwhelming feeling about JW is that he was far too slow for English football, dribbled it too far, too often and got caught/injured more as a result.

  16. 16
    Cynic says:

    Which may be a simplistic view, but it’s a quick read 🙂

  17. 17
    bt8 says:

    Good thing then TTG’s piece was neither quick nor simplistic. It was an illuminating portrait of a career that could have been superlative reduced to something less than that by a series of terrible injuries. Jack wasn’t my favorite player but who would we expect to get injured in a series of collisions between Wilshere and Matic, or between Wilshere and YaYa Toure?

  18. 18
    bt8 says:

    Not to overlook Trev’s part in the piece.

  19. 19
    ClockEndRider says:

    Cynic @15/16,
    Sir, I would suggest you take a deep breath, open a bottle of something nice, poor a large glass and then proceed to bathe mentally in the healing waters of TTG ‘s excellent piece and internally in the contents of said bottle. Jack was a player whom no less than Xavi praised as being an outstanding player. If he had been treated with the care and attention he ought to have been both within the club and by referees whose job is, or ought to be, to ensure fair play by common rules, he would still have been playing today. Quite possibly at Man City as there is no way we would have been able to keep him. He was fabulous.

  20. 20
    Cynic says:

    I think there’s a fair amount of over egging the pudding going on here, but each to their own.

  21. 21
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Malcolm @13
    A long time for me being anywhere close to Adelaide either but good to have another Oz Gooner in the bar. All the best.

  22. 22
    Pangloss says:

    An excellent read, TTG. Many thanks.

    Honourable mention to Trev.

  23. 23
    bt8 says:

    Can’t quite figure out these transfer rumors about Lisandro Martinez and (especially) Gabriel, who I think has improved our defence in leaps and bounds. Am I alone, I wonder.

  24. 24
    TTG says:

    Partey has travelled to the USA in a 33 man squad

  25. 25
  26. 26
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thank you TTG & Trev for a superlative, illuminating piece bathed in the delight and wistfulness of golden memories.

    I know us Arsenal fans, and I assume some England fans, would look at Jack’s career with a sense of unfulfilled promise. Of what could have been. But I hope Jack himself, and his family and loved ones, feel immensely proud of the player he has been. He played with joy, panache and authenticity — all complemented by talent and drive — from a very early age that’s not easy to come across in professional football anymore. Whereas some would point to the lack of self-preservation instincts as a sign of immaturity maybe it was a greater wisdom, of generosity of spirit and expression of love for the game and us fans who had formed a special connection with this quintessentially Arsenal player.

    Wishing him the very best in everything he wants to do in future.

  27. 27
    North Bank Ned says:

    Leno travelling as well, but apart from Reuell Walters none of the rising youngsters like Patino, Hutchinson, Oulad M’Hand or Flores. It’s a full first-team-squad travelling party:

    Goalkeepers: Aaron Ramsdale, Bernd Leno, Matt Turner, Arthur Okonkwo, Alex Runarsson

    Defenders: Kieran Tierney, Nuno Tavares, Gabriel, Pablo Mari, Ben White, Rob Holding, William Saliba, Hector Bellerin, Cedric Soares, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Reuell Walters

    Midfielders: Mohamed Elneny, Lucas Torreira, Thomas Partey, Emile Smith Rowe, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Granit Xhaka, Martin Odegaard, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Fabio Vieira, Reiss Nelson

    Forwards: Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Jesus, Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka, Folarin Balogun, Marquinhos

  28. 28
    scruzgooner says:

    the implication being, ned@27, that everyone on the list has a shot at contributing to the team this year, as much or as little as they want to/can do.

    leno, nuno, pablo, hecate, lucas, amn, reiss, and pepe are all up for proving their worth. either for arsenal or for the shop window.

  29. 29
    bt8 says:

    Scruz, I can’t argue with that plan at all. True competition for places is the only way to be successful, isn’t it?

  30. 30
    scruzgooner says:

    indeed, bt8. i rather like the prospect of those players raising their game from “not good enough” to “good enough”, especially if it nets us more on the pitch or at the till.

  31. 31
    Sancho Panza says:

    I know Rome or any other city wasn’t built in a day and it isn’t easy to get rid of players you don’t want and buy players you do but a lot of those players simply aren’t good enough and have proved to be so for quite some time now. Unless we start to see some action in the transfer market soon it will be more of the same frustration next season.

  32. 32
    bt8 says:

    I guess that’s the shop window side of the equation. The reason we travelled with 5 goal keepers remains a bit of a mystery. Unless we rotate the keeper every 20 minutes.

  33. 33
    TTG says:

    There was a statement by a PL club whose player has been arrested on rape charges. They effectively are saying as no formal charges have been laid and he maintains his innocence they are free to play him. If they’d taken another view it does tend to prejudice the case of the player going forward.
    We of course have no idea who the player is or his team . Apparently he has travelled with them on their pre-season tour .

  34. 34
    TTG says:

    I’m mystified by the absence of young hopefuls on the tour whilst a lot of players who won’t be with us next season travel and as Bt8 says we are taking five goalkeepers, one of whom is patently not good enough to play in the first team. Maybe Mikel has promised the lads a trip to Disney World but one would have thought this suited the youngsters more .Having said that I thoroughly enjoyed it there but was able to pretend that I was taking two little boys as my sole reason for going!
    I have decided not to pay £5.99 to rise in the middle of the night to see pre-season friendlies where many of the players are in the exit lounge .
    It’s all a bit Mickey Mouse if you ask me

  35. 35
    OsakaMatt says:

    Agree TTG, I’m Donald Ducked if I’m handing over the dough to watch.

  36. 36
    North Bank Ned says:

    To have one contract cancelled, Mr Ozil, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.


  37. 37
    bathgooner says:

    Ned @36, exactly but there are ‘fans’ out there who will still blame MA8! 🤣

  38. 38
    bt8 says:

    Puts me in mind of the giddy atmosphere around these parts when we signed the fish man (latterly referred to as the fishgod), and everybody with an “o” in their monniker. The only ones feeling giddier at the time must have been Real Madrid for offloading him for more pesetas than they could have found in Spain.

  39. 39
    bt8 says:

    … everybody with an “o” in their moniker was rushing to add an umlaut in celebration (yours truly included). If we could predict the future we really would be geniuses.

  40. 40
    North Bank Ned says:

    Peak Ozil was an extraordinarily talented player, but at some point, he lost his bearings. Unfortunately, that point occurred while he was in our employ.

  41. 41
    scruzgooner says:

    i honestly think it was the moment he hitched his wagon to erdogan publicly during the summer of 2018, and was panned in the german (and other) press; his quitting of the german national team just after a dismal world cup added to the burden. that’s when his wheels came off. i understand why he was given an extension, though clearer thinking might have led him to be let go for free without that burden.

    but wenger had just retired, sanchez was let go to manure, and we went through the wholesale cleanout after the failure of the EFL final. clearly mesut couldn’t fulfill arteta’s criteria for “non-negotiables” of respect, commitment, and passion.

  42. 42
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@34: The only conceivable explanation I can come up with is that Arteta’s working assumption is that there will be no further sales or loans from the first team squad in this window, regardless of whom he thinks should be moved on. That’s the squad he’ll have to work with for the first half of the season, and so that is the group he will prepare. The up-and-coming youngsters can have more time to grow bigger, stronger and older (close in on the critical 21 years old mark that Trev identified; Jack’s return may have brought that front of mind.) and yet still be given some minutes in Europa League group stage games. Arteta may also be doing some contingency planning around restructuring the midfield, given possible incomings and other uncertainties, so he wants to work with his senior players rather than Patino, Hutchinson, Oulad M’Hand and Flores. They are close to being first-teamers but not yet there.

    If you group his travelling party by position, there is not so much redundancy, except among the keepers. I’ve marked the first-teamers who will count as Under-21 players for Premier League purposes and so not take up a roster spot.

    Goalkeepers: Aaron Ramsdale, Bernd Leno, Matt Turner, Arthur Okonkwo (U21), Alex Runarsson
    Right backs: Takehiro Tomiyasu, Hector Bellerin, Cedric Soares,
    Right CBs: Ben White, William Saliba (U21), Rob Holding
    Left CBs: Gabriel, Pablo Mari
    Left backs: Kieran Tierney, Nuno Tavares
    6s: Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny, Lucas Torreira,
    8s: Bukayo Saka (U21), Albert Sambi Lokonga, Ainsley Maitland-Niles
    10s: Emile Smith Rowe, Fabio Vieira, Martin Odegaard
    Wingers: Marquinhos (U21), Gabriel Martinelli (U21), Reiss Nelson, Nicolas Pepe
    9s: Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Jesus, Folarin Balogun (U21),

  43. 43
    OsakaMatt says:

    We signed Ozil to the new contract to appease the fans as we’d just let Alexis go. Damn that appeasement fellow, a real pest 🙂 And his mate haphazard.

    Things look much rosier now we have a clear approach, talking of which I hope the interest in Zinchenko is factual.

  44. 44
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks Ned @42
    That seems a conceivable explanation – we don’t know who we can sell at this moment so bring them all. The most obvious redundancy looks to be at keeper, RB and winger to me. Leno, Hector and Pepe the ones we need to move on if we can. Torreira needs to move as well but Zinchenko and/or Tielemans (or a rabbit from a magic hat) to come in.

  45. 45
    OsakaMatt says:

    I also thought MA will want a fast start this season after last seasons early disasters and part of that is having everyone who may even possibly play ready to go, fit and with some playing time under the belt.

  46. 46
    ClockEndRider says:

    I would like to think that part of it is also to get over to those in the departure lounge that the days of expecting to be paid off for their remaining contracts are over and that they should not expect to negotiate themselves nice deals direct with the club of their choice. I suspect this may have been part of the issue with Torreira and Le Viole. Frankly I couldn’t care how this makes them feel. Luca Brasi never put a gun to their heads and told them that either their signature or their brains would be on the contract when they signed for Arsenal.

  47. 47
    OsakaMatt says:

    I wonder if Edu can say “your agent
    sleeps with the fishes” in a sufficiently
    menacing voice

  48. 48
    TTG says:

    I have heard that Omari Hutchinson is to defect to Chelsea . This is a serious blow. The boy is a talent

  49. 49
    Cynic says:

    Zinchecko is one of those players you look at and think, “How the hell is someone THAT ordinary playing for them?” But they have a few of those in their team and still win stuff, so he might be a good signing.

  50. 50
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@45: Good point about making a fast start to the season. We have five winnable games in August. Fifteen points in the bag before we visit the Old Toilet on September 4 must be the target.

  51. 51
    bt8 says:

    Well and coolly in Ned

  52. 52
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Was browsing through Arsenal’s pre-season US practice session snaps on the official site and TP5 is very much present, and active.

  53. 53
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    TTG. You never know how youth players will pan out.

    Whenever we nick one from a rival I’m hopeful they will be the next Cesc.

    When we lose one to a rival I’m hopeful they will fall by the wayside, like so many.

    I do wonder what Chelsea have said to the lad to turn his head? At Arsenal there is a clear chance of progressing to the first team if you are good enough. At Chelsea, they have a new billionaire owner who is looking to invest so they can overtake the 2 sides they finished behind last year. The talismanic player for each of those sides (Salah and De Bruyne) were on Chelsea’s books as youngsters but had to leave to get the chances to play, and develop into 2 of the world’s best players.

    I’m not sure that I’d see Chelsea as a good place to develop into a first team regular.

    Still, if Hutchinson backs himself to that degree, then fair play to him. It looks an odd one from where I am sitting.

  54. 54
    TTG says:

    I reacted to the Hutchinson news almost exactly as you did. Look at all the Chelsea youngsters struggling to break through at the Bus Stop- Guehi,Gallagher , Broja and Colvill but if he needs a salutary lesson look at how Hudson- Odoi- the star of their Youth Cup winning side has fared since he broke through.
    My understanding is that Hutchinson’s nose was put out of joint by our signing of Marquinhos . Chelsea would never bring in an expensive overseas signing who would demote a homegrown star😀😀

  55. 55
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Frankly, anyone with aspirations to be a professional footballer, (never mind one at a Premier League club, let alone a Prem club challenging for top four and trophies) whose attitude to facing competition for his place is to move somewhere else is never going to make it.

    There will always be another Marquinhos. Saka could have seen us sign Raphinha in his position. You get on with it and prove you are the better player.

    Or, you know, move to Chelsea where you will be immune from competition 😬

  56. 56
    bathgooner says:

    Excellent points on Hutchinson, gents. Couldn’t agree more. Sadly a badly advised lad.

  57. 57
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    I’ve just seen Hutchinson has already chosen to represent Jamaica instead of England, who he would also be eligible for.

    I’ve got no idea what his personal reasons for that decision might be, but from a purely footballing perspective, it will be easier to get into the Jamaica team than the England one.

    I don’t want to read too much into it, but having a great talent is less useful than having a great attitude.

    Pepe and Hleb are/were tremendously gifted footballers. But I wouldn’t take both of them for Ray Parlour on a bad day. And our current incarnation definitely needs more players with grit.

  58. 58
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Apologies to whoever has recently been making good points about wanting a strong leader to be captain again (I forget who was saying it) but I really agree.
    And I agree that the recent devaluing of the captaincy role has not helped the club at all.

    Even Tierney is someone who gives a lot, but not someone who has the aura of someone who expects to win at the highest level. We don’t have that in the dressing room, and I wonder what our leadership on the pitch will look like next year, as well as who will be captain/vice captain.

  59. 59
    TTG says:

    I quote from Le Grove which quotes Kyle Walker recently
    There’s a great video doing the rounds where Kyle walker gives his view on who the 3 most technically gifted players at the club are.
    “Not in any order, my top three are Zinchenko, Mahrez & Silva. Two touches, head tennis, so good. You’re leaving De Bruyne out, Foden, Cancelo, but they don’t come close to those three.”
    Being singled out as one of the most technically blessed players at City is quite the accolade when you consider the outrageous talent on offer. I think Zinchenko for the sort of fee quoted is a no brainer. Did you see him play against Scotland in midfield ?

  60. 60
    TTG says:

    GSD ,
    I think I was making the point about the captaincy in a previous piece where I pointed out how poor we were at coming back from behind in games .
    Re Hutchinson I agree that he has been poorly advised . If you leave us go to Palace or Brentford or Southampton or abroad to Dortmund or one of the Red Bull franchises. That’s how to leapfrog the queue to first-team football. He is a Joorabchian client and there may be some vindictiveness in this move

  61. 61
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    If Ramsdale develops well, then he might be a good captain in a few years time (although he needs at least 5 years of maturing, and focusing on improving his goalkeeping). And, keeper is not a great position for a captain, even if there have been some good examples where players have made it work.

    Gabriel might be a good candidate, if he stays with us, and he would probably need to keep improving his English. I don’t really see White in the role. Tomi is more of an enforcer than a captain, but he does have some steel about him, so he might grow into it (again – keep working on the language)

    Maybe Partey? But it seems more like we’d just be giving it to a good player, who plays in a good position for a captain, rather than someone who is a natural leader.

    For all of the qualities of some of our young players, none of them have that Cesc-like capacity to demand more from everyone around them, or show the skills to lead a team, rather than simply inspire a team.

    Odegaard might get it. He’s probably our best choice at this point. And he has always been a character willing to learn and add strings to his bow, so hopefully he can grow into the role. But occasionally he looks a bit passive. Or a bit “well, you tried your best.”

    I want a horrible bastard who scares the opposition only marginally more than he scares his own team. I want Saka scoring last minute winners and coming off going “well, I had to score after missing those two earlier chances or I knew the skipper was going to kill me if we dropped 2 points.”
    A sort of hybrid Vieira/Adams with some of the unhinged mania of Keown and the dismissive scorn for error of Henry.

    Is that really asking too much?

  62. 62
    North Bank Ned says:

    I, too, cannot see Hutchinson having a better chance of breaking through at the Bus Stop than he would by staying with us. It must be disheartening for him and the Patinos and Floreses to see our first-team squad filled by players in their positions only a few years older than them, but the reality is that the odds are overwhelmingly against any youngster breaking into a top Premier League first-team squad and the bar for any 18-year old gets higher every year.

  63. 63
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@60 correctly identifies the path of advancement for an ambitious youngster.

    GSD@61 MØ8 captains the Norweigan national team, so at least he has some training wheels for the role. Your Vieira/Adams/Keown/Henry would be a monster mash.

  64. 64
    Cynic says:

    TTG – I never watch international football these days, so I didn’t see that game. Funnily enough, if I had to name three players who were at City who were bang average (to coin a phrase) and lucky to be at that club, on stupid money and with medals almost guaranteed, Zinchenko and Mahrez would be two of them. The third would be Kyle Walker, who thinks they’re amazing 🙂

    Mahrez has reportedly signed a new deal at City, but I just don’t get him at all. He started less than half their games last season.

  65. 65
    TTG says:

    GSD/ Ned
    When we chatted to Pat Rice last year about the Double it was noticeable the respect that he still had for Frank Mclintock. He still calls him skipper when they are together and all those players still alive realise what an incredible job he did of motivating and inspiring the team .Bob tells the story of the Fairs Cup Final first leg when they lost 3-1 at Anderlecht .He said Frank went into the shower fing and blinding but when he came out he called tye team together and said ‘ We can win this ! 2-0 at our place and we take the trophy . They credit him with lifting the team then and looking after the players individually with a mixture of sensitivity and Gorbals rage ! Adams was another example and of course in a different way Patrick Vieira . Can you imagine if Roy Keane was around any of our players going toe to toe with him. The only ones might be Ramsdale or Tierney !
    I desperately think we need someone who can galvanise the side , ideally from defence or midfield

  66. 66
    TTG says:

    Let’s just agree to differ Cynic. Mahrez is an extraordinarily gifted player and while he is an ex-Tott Walker has become a good international defender. He played very well in the Euros . Mahrez nearly came to Arsenal ( Wenger dithered again ) and was keen to join us and I think he would have added great value

  67. 67
    bt8 says:

    Zinchenko, a very flexible player, could be a canny signing and it seems to be looking more likely. He doesn’t really fit the with the profile for a Xhaka replacement signing I was expecting but what do I know?

  68. 68
  69. 69
    bathgooner says:

    “A sort of hybrid Vieira/Adams with some of the unhinged mania of Keown and the dismissive scorn for error of Henry.”

    An interesting hybridisation there GSD. I don’t want a captain with the unhinged mania of Keown (whom I loved but who could get over-emotional at times and needed the calming influence of TA6 beside him to be at his best) and I don’t want a captain who resorts to the dismissive gallic shrug and grimace of TH14 who was one of the greatest players I ever watched but who, I am afraid, I thought was an awful captain.

    I would take a TA6/PV4 hybrid but actually I would take a pure TA6 at the drop of a hat. I will never forget how Tony Adams would lead the team out before a match at Highbury and again at the beginning of the second half with a proud determined stride and how he would constantly exort his teammates to greater effort. It gave me a glimpse of how the leadership qualities of an otherwise ordinary bloke (look at his managerial record) could enable young men to clamber over a parapet and charge enemy guns – not necessarily the most ‘woke’ analogy but nonetheless the vision he gave me. I don’t actually think PV4 was a patch on him though now I would take a PV4 in a heartbeat.

    I never had the privilege of seeing Frank play in the flesh though I recognise the character that TTG describes from his. interviews and the respect with which Pat and Bob speak of him.

    Great discussion chaps, and I agree there is no-one in the current first XI who exudes the necessary qualities. I think KT3 has the grit in his play but for a Glaswegian he seems awfully meek. Ødegaard may grow into the role but is more cerebral than passionate – a different kind of leader from TA6 or Frank or even PV4 or CF4. I don’t think Partey has it. I know it’ll annoy some, and he shouldn’t get it again after his strop but the nearest to a leader I see on our pitch is Xhaka.

    On another tack, I strongly believe that Zinchenko would be a great signing.

  70. 70
    Cynic says:

    A sort of hybrid Vieira/Adams with some of the unhinged mania of Keown and the dismissive scorn for error of Henry.

    OK, I’ll do it. 🙂

  71. 71
    North Bank Ned says:

    Cynic@70: 🙂

  72. 72
    North Bank Ned says:

    Omari Hutchinson to Chelsea confirmed. https://www.chelseafc.com/en/news/article/young-forward-hutchinson-joins-chelsea
    Still think it a short-sighted move on his part.

  73. 73
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Gabriel can become a good captain. He sees the game well, is vocal on the pitch and leads the defense with a lot of maturity and responsibility. He is still quite young, and there are levels in his game that he should aspire to, but he is reliable, consistent, aggressive but never unnecessarily confrontational. Once his English gets better — he speaks Portuguese and French — he can be a candidate.
    Ødegaard can be a different type of captain. He is less demonstrative but is highly demanding of himself and the team, works very hard and despite his superlative technical ability never flashy or egotistical, tactically a great reader of the game and a very cool and matured head. I think this season we will see him captain the side.

  74. 74
    TTG says:

    Romano says we have reached a verbal agreement with Citeh to sign Zinchenko. This is going to happen !

  75. 75
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    I’m with Baff on Zinchenko.

    I think he will be a star for us.

    My only concern is that I can see him being so good in midfield that we would struggle if he had to cover Tierney at LB, unless we sign another midfielder. I’d love Tielemans and the Ukrainian.

    If we also get a wide forward then that would be truly excellent incoming business, and Edu would be left to get rid of as many off those deemed surplus to requirements as possible.

  76. 76
    North Bank Ned says:

    GSD@75: Marcelo Flores may yet be that wide forward.

    Another thing about Hutchison. If he took the hump about us signing Marquinhos, why go to a club that has just signed Sterling?

  77. 77
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:


    Flores and Marquinhos seem a very different profile to Raphinha, and some of the other wide forwards that the papers have linked us with (Gnabry, Sane, Mahrez etc). I’m not saying I think we are likely to sign any of those 3, but I do think Arteta wants a player who can start 15+ PL games next season.

    And I don’t think we already have that player.

  78. 78
    TTG says:

    Having a good winger is always useful but I wasn’t clear where Raphinha would play as Saka starts on the right . On the left we have Martinelli, ESR and possibly Jesus as well as Zinchenko now. Nelson and Flores could start in the Europa League
    Hopefully Zinchenko can fill the 8 position that Xhaka currently does but as GSD says this would still not fully solve the problem of a deputy for KT3. Tielemans plays right midfield for Leicester and interestingly Zinchenko becomes another very left-footed player in our squad after Tierney, Gabriel, Xhaka , Vieira, Saka and Odegaard. That is half a team of lefties!
    We now await the Everton game, the result of which will greet ma on rising tomorrow

  79. 79
    TTG says:

    Arsenal XI: Turner; Cedric, Saliba, Gabriel, Tavares; Partey, Odegaard, Xhaka; Saka, Gabriel Jesus, Martinelli

    Subs: Okonkwo, Bellerin, Mari, Walters, Holding, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Lokonga, Torreira, Pepe, Nelson, Balogun, Nketiah

    Looks like we may play two 8s and no obvious 10 this season

  80. 80
    North Bank Ned says:

    Stones, Gundogan and Foden are not vaccinated assumedly, but all our first team must be. Could our youngsters left at home not be?

  81. 81
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@79: Isn’t two 8s and no 10 the classic 4-3-3 line-up?

  82. 82
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Decent pre-season outing. Except that a few Everton players tried to break opposition legs … just before the final whistle one ex-Burnley thug nearly decapitated Sambi.

    Saliba looks ready. Xhaka, Mo, the three Brazilians, Saka, Ødegaard looked good.

  83. 83
    scruzgooner says: